£14bn needed to tackle pothole backlog, report warns

More than £14bn in central government funding is needed to fix the backlog of repairs needed on British roads, a survey has found.

This is the equivalent of £68,000 per mile of local road in England and Wales – and would take an average of 11 years to complete, an annual survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) has found.

It also showed that local authority highway teams in England and Wales only received around two-thirds of what they needed to stop local roads from further deterioration.

Despite a small increase in overall highway maintenance budgets, less is being spent on the carriageway itself and rising costs due to inflationary pressures mean engineers have reported being forced to postpone or cancel road schemes to make savings.

The data also showed that in the last year, the gap between what local authorities received and what they said they would have needed to keep roads to their own target conditions and prevent further decline is now £1.3bn – a jump of more than 20 per cent on last year’s figure.

Rick Green, AIA chair, said: “Highway engineers can only do so much with the resources they are given and should be applauded for the steps they take to keep roads safe.

“Potholes and the condition of our local roads remain key issues for the public and the Chancellor went someway to recognising this in his Spring Budget.

“But the additional £200m one-off payment for local roads in England, while welcome, is just not enough. It represents around 20 per cent of the average shortfall in English local authorities’ annual budgets and will do little to improve overall structural conditions and stem further decline.

“We all appreciate that there are difficult choices to make with demands and pressures on the public purse coming from every area, but not investing in local road maintenance only leads to worsening conditions, which impact on other locally provided public services, a rising bill to fix the problem and more road user complaints.”

This year’s survey received responses from 75 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales. It reports local road funding and conditions based on information provided directly by those responsible for its maintenance.

While half (51 per cent) of local roads are reported to be in good structural condition, the remaining 100,000 miles could continue to deteriorate to the point of needing to be rebuilt within the next 15 years, the report warned.

“To really improve conditions and create a safe, resilient and sustainable network, what’s needed is a longer-term funding horizon from central government with more highway budget ring-fencing,” Green added.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are investing more than £5bn from 2020 to 2025 into local highways maintenance, and recently announced an extra £200m at the Budget to fix millions of potholes a year.

“This will help make journeys smoother and safer for all, repair dozens of bridges, and resurface roads up and down the country.”

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